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Students compete in skills competition

LAWRENCEVILLE - Norcross High School senior Danna Baker was a little nervous Friday afternoon.

The 17-year-old was just minutes away from participating in a nail care competition that would pit her against some of the best technical education students in the state.

The SkillsUSA competition took place in a classroom at Maxwell High School of Technology, where Baker takes cosmetology classes. The state event tests students in a variety of areas, including automotive repair, carpentry, criminal justice, early childhood education, health care and technical computer applications.

The competition is intense, as the timed events take place while judges, parents and other students watch. Participants each submit a resume, and the winners earn a basket full of goodies and the chance to participate in the national SkillsUSA competition in Kansas City.

Several competitions were taking place at Maxwell High, but events were also held at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, Briscoe Field, Gwinnett Technical College, Atlanta Marriott Gwinnett Place and Berkmar High School.

"Competition is always good because it gives them an opportunity to polish their skills and show off what they've learned," Maxwell High principal Donna Powers said.

Participation could also help the students land a job.

"The competition could give me more of a push into more cosmetology schools, especially if I win," Baker said.

Jeff Matthews, a Dacula resident, came to Maxwell High on Friday to watch his son, Justin, participate in the automotive refinishing competition.

"We hope he does well," Matthews said. "He really enjoys doing this. ... It's a real good program. When he first got into it, he said there could be a possibility of getting a job."

At the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, students were participating in masonry, residential wiring, carpentry and plumbing competitions. A group from Maxwell High competed in the TeamWorks event, in which participants had three hours to build a structure.

A few yards away, several companies displayed information at the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia Expo.

Georgia Power installed four poles at the

fairgrounds, and crew members were demonstrating

climbing and performing tasks in the air, said Gordy Morris, a training supervisor.

"We want to educate the younger people about what we do, what Georgia Power is about and what the Southern Company is about," Morris said. "It is a good job and a good career, but it is physical."

Morris said the expo provided a good forum for Georgia Power employees to address any misconceptions people might have about the work. For example, some people think being a lineman is dangerous, but the company has an extensive training program, and injuries only happen if someone violates the safety procedures, he said.

The Transportation Education Foundation of Georgia held a career expo at Briscoe Field. Gwinnett Technical College was invited this year to show off their programs, said Steve Conway, the school's

automotive division director.

Conway said the high schoolers would benefit from learning about all of their options, including programs at the postsecondary level.

The SkillsUSA state leadership and skills conference continues today with an awards ceremony.